Archive for November, 2008


Sunday night, I fell down stairs and broke my ankle.

I was in a beautiful Chapel, practicing Compline with my friend Jane–we were due to go upstairs into the sanctuary to sing, and I fell.

It was horrible– my whole body was surprised. I was also embarrassed, and began wishing immediately that I could just stand up and shake it off.  In the next few moments, Jane helped me lay on my back, the Lutheran campus pastor came downstairs (hearing me cry) and another woman who was there to sing joined us as well.  They discussed whether or not they should call the ambulance, kindly ignoring my tearful assertions that I was probably okay.  After we tried to stand up, I realized that I was wrong.

It felt as if something was terribly loose in my ankle– I visualized it as a letter /C/ on it’s side, like a cup which is usually strong and firm.  In this case, it was very loose, and would not hold my leg up.

(I once knew an MD/PhD student–rare to be getting both–whose main academic interest was the language we use to describe pain.  He said that we really have very little language–we compare things to burning, to weight, to pressure.  Doctors ask us to rate things.  He wanted to study these limitations in language, and try to help think of new ways for doctors to aid patients in talking about pain.)

When I tried to stand, I was immediately gasping for breath and weeping–and I believe I tried to explain how the “C in my ankle wasn’t sturdy, it was loose and terrible.”  Goodness knows what they thought of this. Needless to say, they called Matt and the ambulance service.

The worst part, besides the actual ankle, was being carried down another flight of marble stairs by the paramedics in a small chair-thing.  For some reason, the jerky uncertain feeling of going backwards down stairs, being carried by three people, brought on a panic attack–soon my teeth were chattering and I was begging them to just let me go home.  Later, Jane said I did quite well, but I can’t help but feel that I must have been a horrible patient.

Matt rode in the ambulance and stayed in the ER with me for the entire four (five?) hours.  I got a plaster cast and crutches.  We got home at 4:30 AM on Monday morning.  My good leg and entire body were so exhausted that I actually couldn’t make the crutches work down our long hallway.  I had to crawl.  I was so thankful that all of my floormates and neighbors were asleep and wouldn’t see me, sweaty and weeping, struggling to get home.

Tuesday, in a cab on the way to the orthopedist, the cabbie–who was chatting away on his phone–got into a car accident.  My body slid forward; my bad foot jammed beneath the seat in front of me.  I had an incredulous feeling of: “Really?!  A car accident?”  The cabbie kept repeating, sotto voce, “Shit.  Shit.  Shit.  Shit…”  That was a good day, though, because I got a very high-tech bio-boot instead of the plaster cast, and am much more mobile. 

So, I’m struggling with not being able to do ten or thirty things at once, and am surprised by how tired I get, how physically achey and exhausted I get after doing (seemingly) very little.

For now, I’m watching episodes of Two Fat Ladies and Christmas movies with Matt.  He’s amazingly patient and wonderful.  Next up: I’ll “direct” the decoration of the Christmas tree from my perch on the sofa.


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1. I slept in yesterday and today.  Yesterday, I had class at ten o’clock.  I mostly prepared for class the night before, but didn’t stay up too late–I still had some translation left, but I felt good enough to stay asleep.  So yesterday morning, I lay happily in bed, waking up at my own pace, until nine o’clock.  It felt so good to move at my own pace.

(Note: Mostly, on days like yesterday, I tell myself, “You should get up at six o’clock and do three hours of work.”  Then, when I don’t want to, or can’t do that, I already feel like I’m not working hard, before the day even begins.)

2.  I’ve stopped cleaning a little.  I had some dear friends in town last weekend, and because I’m so relaxed around them, I didn’t feel the need to scrub and straighten every last thing.  Particularly, my suitcase was still out on my bedroom floor from a recent trip to Boston, and a long pink ribbon was also snaking across the floor.  I ignored both all weekend long, and never felt the urge to make the apartment “perfect” to entertain my friends.  I’ve also been letting the bed go.  I usually make it right away every morning, but sometimes I don’t _want_ to.  This morning, I didn’t make it; I let myself drink coffee and putter.  I eventually made it after lunch, but it felt relaxing to not think about it, or not think harshly of myself for not doing it right away.

The pink ribbon isn’t on my floor any more, but my dresser top is scattered with jewelry, there is an unruly stack of magazines at my feet, and blankets from this weekend’s house guest are still piled on the couch.  I feel pretty good– I moved at my own pace today, and felt smart and relaxed in class.

I’ve been considering more ways I can make things easier on myself.  This morning in the shower, I thought, “You’re a smart girl–you solve all kinds of things, and make all kinds of situations work.  You can probably find ways to not be so stressed, too.”  I think the first thing I’m going to tackle is my use of the word “should” in my inner self-talk.  I’m thinking I’ll be conscious of it for an Advent spiritual practice.  I can’t think of a time when I’ve told others “You should…you should…you must…you SHOULD…you shouldn’t…” and so I need to not say it so much to myself.

PS: The Hebrew word for breath/wind/spirit is /ruah/ (in Hebrew at the top of the post).  It is one of the divine names of God, as well; it is also a feminine name for God.  Images for it include a healing, loving breath moving from God to God’s creation, filling and sustaining us.

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Iron lung

That’s what it feels like, to imagine everything I have to do, and the free hours I have in a day.

I’ve been doing better.  I don’t check e-mail when I’m working on specific tasks, I’m procrastinating less and less, and I am getting better at not feeling guilty for resting.  But there’s still so much to do!

A related thing that happens is that I feel jealous, and bitter, about my classmates that don’t work at all. I work nearly thirty hours a week, outside of my full class load.  I’ll be in class, thinking about how I did my reading on the train, or rushed through a translation, and look at them, thinking: they don’t work; they only have to study; they had all week to do this.  And I feel that jealousy is not only sinful, but deflating, and bad for one’s heart.  It also limits the possibility to have True, authentic connections with others.

How can I avoid feeling jealous for the time I don’t have?  How can I make the time I do have less frenzied-feeling?

I guess there are some people who don’t know–in this day and age–what an iron lung is.  I had to explain it once to someone at work.  I saw one once in a science museum.  Kids with polio, who couldn’t breathe, would have to live inside them.  The lung–the tube of the lung–would press pressurized air in and out, against their lungs, literally forcing them to take in breath and release it.  I can’t imagine: I looked at the iron lung, the cold contraption in front of me, and wondered what it would be like to live every day in one. Photographs of hospitals, row upon row of them, are especially frightening.

So clearly I don’t feel as if I’m _actually_ in an iron lung, but I notice my breathing is shallow, my mind darts to various deadlines, despairs at the ones that will be late, and prioritizes based on fear and stress, instead of what I would truly like to do.  My own freedoms, to think and read and be creative, to _choose_, are gone.

How. To. Breathe?

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I’ve heard that sentence, belligerently yelled/moaned, hundreds of time.  A man on a corner near where I live repeats it, again and again, throughout the day and evening.  Doing a few errands around that corner, and waiting for the bus nearby, I hear him repeat it.

City life means experiencing many people asking for money or food in a variety of ways.  Some favorites include individuals or groups playing music on subway tracks, or inside the train.  I’ve heard some great performers, and it’s cool when someone is so talented that the whole train car suddenly applauds, or starts happily making contributions.  Twice, I saw the same father and (very young) son team–the dad would play music on a boom box, and the tiny little boy would breakdance on the train.  Afterwards, the boy takes his cap off and goes around silently asking for money.  This seems like something from Charles Dickens (beggar children) to me.  The second time I saw this pair, someone was complimenting the father on his son, and his dad was proudly saying that they only do it in the evening, so he can be sure to go to school during the day.

People (I have only seen men on the street begging, and only twice seen a woman asking for money on the train) on the street asking for money are harder.  I personally have never given anyone money.  I usually look them in the eye and say, “I’m sorry; I only have my debit card,” which is mostly often true.  They often reply, “Thank you, God bless you,”  and if they say “God bless you,” I reply, “And you too,” which is not a lie. One of the things that makes me really sad is that no one looks at them, and it frightens me how dehumanizing it must be to beg all day long.  So I try to look at them when I speak to them.

I know some people who always give money.  And I know some people who work for shelters and in outreach/justice programs who exhort people _not_ to give money.  One of my churches has a small business-sized card we can hand out; it lists locations in the neighborhood where someone can get food every day of the week.  So ostensibly, it’s apparently possible to stay within the same neighborhood and get hot or fresh food at least once every day.

I try to think about that, but there are still so many people standing on the street asking for help.  They’re often the same people–you get to know or recognize the men.  The man who I quote in the title has a terrible voice–he doesn’t try to get along, or smile, or ask nicely.  He yells that sentence, again and again, at passerby.  Matt and I have talked about how he must get nothing, that his “ask” is so off-putting.  But maybe you get so little, anyway, that you just feel angry and frustrated, and can’t help but ask that way.

Finally, I have seen twice someone on a train just asking for, “Help, food, an apple, a bottle of water…whatever you have.”  Asking for food like that seems to work better–in both cases, people on the train car gave the man granola bars, fruit, water–whatever they had in their lunches or from grocery bags.

What do you do in these situations?

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As I described in my Oliver Cromwell post (see, I still don’t want to say the “w*rt” word), the plantar warts on my feet have been causing me a great deal of psychic pain.  A little physical pain, and then lots of anxiety: ruminating on them, trying to scrape them out, worrying that they are spreading…  My doctor was kind enough to give me a referral to a podiatrist.

I felt very silly going into this very posh doctor’s office across from Central Park.  She’s the doctor for the Rockettes!  Photos of the glamourous ladies line the waiting room, signed with things like: “Thanks for keeping us on our feet!”  I felt bad, like I didn’t _need_ to be there.  

However, she is a great doctor, and put me at ease right away.  She said things like, “Only one thing cures these, and I’m going to give it to you, and they will be gone,” “These are not worth losing sleep over,” “I treat dancers all day long, and everyone has them,” and “It’s not a matter of being gross or ugly: just think: all the pretty ballerinas have them.”

The doctor works with a pharmacy that creates a special compound.  It includes a high dose of sycilic (?) acid, some sort of chemotherapy agent, and I think an anti-viral drug.  It comes in a little nail polish bottle, with a brush.  The pharmacy mailed it to me; I got it today.  I will put it on each wart twice a day, and then cover everything with band-aids.  (Or even tape, the point is that they are covered completely.)  Every two weeks I will visit the doctor again, where she will scrape them or something.  And soon they will be gone!

I can’t describe how happy I am about this.  I know, I know: small thing.  And believe me, I worry about big things, too.  But these have been really causing me such anxiety and stress.  I am so thankful for health insurance.  And a kind, smart doctor.  I just painted the awful little buggers with the solution, and feel very efficient and pleased.  Goodbye, ugly, bothersome, icky bits.  Hello, twinkle feet.


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Six o’clock in the morning


I did.

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Anything for an A+

Well, I just found the secret to motivating myself to eat healthier.  

Background: I’m a pretty healthy eater: not much candy, no fast food, and I’ve given up even diet soda.  But I _love_ breads and dairies–butter, cream-based food, sour cream, cream cheese, milk, milk in tea, oatmeal, and coffee…  Even if I’m sautéing onions and garlic in olive oil, I’ll put in a tiny slice of butter just for that mmm butter flavor.  You get the idea. 

I’ve had success with Weight Watchers online, but I stopped my subscription this month to save money.  I found something called Calorie Count online, which also allows you to enter all of your food, and the nutritional information.  You can choose just to enter calories, or you can enter all of the information you know.  I tried it today, and found the interface much more simple to use, compared to WW online.  I noticed tonight that I could also add activity, which is also like WW online.  So I added that in, and then I saw something called “Analysis.”  “Hmm,” I though, “I wonder what that shows.”

Lo and behold: the little machine had created a pleasant little pie chart with all of my eating habits for the day, and given me a rating.  Not _just_ a rating—but an actual grade.  Woo-hoo!  

I _love_ grades.  I mean, I’m 31 years old and I’m still a student.  I loved school.  I loved any kind of reading or sticker chart that showed me reading millions of more books than everyone else, my little stickers going off the posterboard and onto the door…  They don’t actually give grades here, which was very disappointing my first semester, until I realized that there are, in fact, at least two grades: Credit, and Credit with Distinction. Henceforth, I dream of “CDs” all the semester long.

But I digress: the Calorie Counter thing gave me a grade!  How pleased was I, in addition to seeing what I had eaten and how I had done, to see that grade.  I’m already contemplating tomorrow: so I’ll start with an A+, and then if I go down to a B+ (or something), I can run up and down stairs until I’m back to the A.

Ahh-there’s nothing like extrinsic motivation.

PS: This grade is _including_ the three fun-size Kit-Kat bars I ate… I’m going through a Kit-Kat phase.

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